Nov 24

Rifles? Check. Smartbombs? Check. PR? Um…

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Matt Purdue.

While we are safe at home with our families this weekend, trying to figure out how to fit a   Hires_080709-M-6668G-021b chicken, inside a duck inside a turkey, take a moment to think of our troops overseas on this Thanksgiving—and if you do no other work on this holiday, read this report. You’ll find it shocking from a PR perspective.

Clearly the war in Afghanistan has taken a terrible toll in blood and treasure. Earlier this year, the Afghan conflict became the longest war in American history. Now this new study is out providing a hint as to why this war may be so hard to win.

The International Council on Security and Development, a thinktank based in London, reports that in the Afghan provinces where fighting has been fiercest, 92 percent of 1,000 Afghan men surveyed know nothing of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington that precipitated the invasion. More than 70 percent of respondents “view foreigners as disrespectful of their religion and traditions,” and 40 percent believe that “foreigners are in Afghanistan to destroy the country, to occupy Afghanistan, or to destroy Islam.

The conclusion is obvious. "The lack of awareness of why we are there contributes to the high levels of negativity toward the NATO military operations and made the job of the Taliban easier," ICOS President Norine MacDonald told Reuters.

If you were called in to advise the Pentagon, what would you tell them? America’s armed forces have often made PR a part of the war-fighting effort. Certainly they’ve tried in Afghanistan, too. But, somehow, the message does not seem to be resonating with the Afghans.

If you could spend five minutes with these guys, how would you advise them to win hearts and minds in a country where 85 percent of citizens live by agriculture, and Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare are nowhere to be found?

Let’s hear from you.

Dec 11

RepMan, Sr., vs. RepMan, Jr.: A microcosm of the great American debate 

December 11 Guest Post from Chris "RepMan, Jr." Cody

RepMan and I take pleasure in discussing geopolitical issues with each other. Though we agree on many issues, President Obama’s decision to send an additional 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan has led to the most profound disagreement we’ve had in recent memory. RepMan is staunchly against sending the troops while I am vociferously in favor of it. Though we have amicably agreed to disagree, our debate translates to the wider dispute throughout the nation.  Getting this decision right will directly impact the image and reputation of our country and our president.

RepMan, like many Americans, opposes Obama’s escalation of the war for several valid reasons.  First, he argues that if we couldn't win the war in eight years, why do we think we can now? Why continue to sacrifice young American lives? Second, RepMan points to the difficulty of sustaining attacks across the border into Pakistan. His third argument is that the liberal base will turn against Obama for escalating the war. Finally, perhaps the most convincing reason he cites is that the continuation of the war will drain more money from an already badly damaged American economy.

Rather than attempt to refute this logic, I believe one has to acknowledge it has a degree of validity. Yet when compared to the other end of the spectrum I am firmly in favor of the troop escalation. One must first recognize the war in Afghanistan is a war waged against both those responsible for the 9/11 attacks and their supporting ideology. The Bush administration, however, diverted the resources necessary to succeed away from Afghanistan and toward an irrational invasion and occupation of Iraq. Hence the reason we have not seen success in Afghanistan.  Now, with Iraq beginning to stabilize and a competent American leader finally at the helm, we have the chance to rethink and formulate an approach to successfully wage the war. A pull out would destabilize the region, sink the country into bloody civil war and embolden a highly dangerous Islamic terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans. 

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Nov 12

What has become clear to you since we last met?

November 12 - emerson Ralph Waldo Emerson was noted for greeting friends with the question, 'What has become clear to you since we last met?' His intent, say historians, was an invitation and a challenge to guests to assess the progress of their thinking.

I find the question profound in its simplicity and thought I'd share what's become clear to me of late:

1) Management by fear is alive and well. Despite countless studies, articles and books extolling the benefits of a great corporate culture, I continue to see our teams take a beating from misbehaving client managers. I also continue to see refugees from other agencies wash up on our shores with tales of shouting and screaming bosses. That said, I remain unclear how or why bullies survive.

2) President Obama is nearly as clueless as W. A great communicator prior to his election, the president has become hopelessly caught up in hundreds of issues that have clearly distracted him from accomplishing one or two truly important and critical goals: creating jobs, ending foreign wars and solving the healthcare mess. And, I don't see him rising above the abyss anytime soon.

3) Far too many businesspeople are jumping on the social media bandwagon without knowing why. The same holds true for 'consumers' who feel compelled to post each and every detail of their mundane daily lives on Facebook, Plaxo and LinkedIn. The latter two, in particular, have become the bane of my existence.

4) The quality of writing continues to devolve with each passing year. I'm now routinely receiving missives from people holding fairly senior positions that are rife with spelling and grammatical mistakes.

5) There's nothing quite as satisfying as the insights gleaned from a work of non-fiction. I've been on a Malcolm Gladwell tear of late and find many of his observations incredibly relevant to work and life in general.

6) My TV viewing is now limited to two comedies and one drama series. That's it. I no longer go to see movies, since the first-run flicks are absolutely pathetic.

I'd be interested in reading what's become clear to you since we last met. Feel free to post away.

Apr 22

The Marines are looking for a few good women

The U. S. Marine Corps has launched an aggressive new advertising campaign aimed at attracting moreMarines
women recruits. It’s a smart move since the all-volunteer Corps is struggling to make its annual quotas. And, while the Corps has accepted women in administrative roles since 1918, it’s only recently begun putting the distaff side in harm’s way.

War being the dirty business that it is, the Corps has to do what the Corps has to do to create awareness and build credibility. But, I must say I find the new ads disingenuous at best.

One, for example, features a very aggressive-looking woman and a headline that reads: “Wanted: leadership that inspires Marines under your command and Americans everywhere."

There’s no doubt that Marine Corps training build confidence, moral and physical strength and, I’m sure, leadership qualities. But, I believe the Corps also needs to let female recruits know what they’re getting themselves into. The current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan shows no sign of letting up, much less improving. So, while the recruits may indeed be leading fellow Marines and inspiring Americans everywhere, they’re also likely to be shipped to an active war zone. And, that’s the rub. I’m just not sure very many prime, 18-year-old prospects understand the grim realities of Baghdad, Falujah and elsewhere. And, I think the U.S. Marine Corps owes our nation’s youth a fully transparent story.

I applaud those who volunteer, but I’d also like women everywhere to realize what they’re signing up for.